David Chariandy, James Maskalyk, Louise Bernice Halfe among 2017 Writers' Trust Award winners

The seven literary awards, announced on Nov. 14 in Toronto, come with a combined $260,000 prize purse.
The seven literary awards, announced on Nov. 14 in Toronto, come with a combined $260,000 prize purse. From left to right: Diane Schoemperlen, Sharon Bala, Billie Livingston, Louise Bernice Halfe, Ruby Slipperjack, David Chariandy and James Maskalyk. (Ryan B. Patrick/CBC)

The 2017 Writers' Trust Awards were announced on Nov. 14, 2017 in Toronto. The prizes, which include honours for individual works and bodies of work, come with a combined purse of $260,000.

The winners were:

  • Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize: Brother by David Chariandy
  • Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction: Life on the Ground Floor by James Maskalyk
  • ​Writers' Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize: Butter Tea at Starbucks by Sharon Bala
  • ​Latner's Writers' Trust Poetry Prize: Louise Bernice Halfe 
  • Matt Cohen Award: Diane Schoemperlen
  • Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award​: Billie Livingston
  • Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People: Ruby Slipperjack

Vancouver-based writer David Chariandy received the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Brother, a coming-of-age story about two brothers, the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. The prize money was doubled to $50,000 for 2017.

The jury, comprised of Tracey Lindberg, Michael Christie and Christy Ann Conlin, chose the book from 141 titles submitted by publishers. They praised Chariandy's sophomore novel for its "stunning lyrical writing, pitch perfect pacing and unexpected humour."

Chariandy's novel was among a list of finalists that included Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's collection of stories and poems This Accident of Being LostCarleigh Baker for the short story collection Bad Endings, Claire Cameron for the novel The Last Neanderthal and Omar El Akkad for the novel American War. $5,000 will go to each of the four remaining finalists.

Toronto author and doctor James Maskalyk won the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize, the annual $60,000 prize that recognizes the best Canadian nonfiction, for his memoir Life on the Ground Floor. The book chronicles the chaos of an inner city Toronto emergency room and the challenges of establishing an emergency medical facility in Addis Ababa.

The remaining finalists included CBC host Carol Off for All We Leave BehindIvan Coyote for Tomboy Survival Guide, Kyo Maclear for Birds Art Life and Tanya Talaga for Seven Fallen Feathers

"[Maskalyk] reveals compelling universal truths about the power, and limits, of medicine — 'life caring for itself,' as he defines it — the strength of human will, and the fragile, infinitesimal gap between dying and living," the jury, comprised of Susan Harada, Arno Kopecky, and Siobhan Roberts, said in a statement.

Louise Bernice Halfe received the Latner's Writers' Trust Poetry Prize, which awards $25,000 to a writer with an exceptional body of work in the field of poetry. The Saskatoon-based poet's body of work features four collections which draw on experiences such as the author's time spent within a residential school and her response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her most recent collection is Burning in this Midnight Dream.

Diane Schoemperlen won the $25,000 Matt Cohen Award, which recognizes a writer for their lifetime contribution to Canadian literature. The Kingston, Ont.-based author has written more than a dozen books, including the memoir This Is Not My Life and the novels The Man of My Dreams and Our Lady of the Lost and Found.

Billie Livingston took home the Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award​. The $25,000 prize is given to a mid-career writer in recognition of a "remarkable body of work." The Vancouver-based author is a novelist, essayist and poet and her work includes the novels Going Down Swinging and One Good Hustle.

Ruby Slipperjack of Thunder Bay, Ont., won the $25,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People. Slipperjack's three decades of work for young readers portrays the traditional religious and social customs of the Anishinabe in northern Ontario. Her latest book is Dear Canada: These Are My Words.

Sharon Bala of St. John's, N.L., won the Writers' Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize for her short story Butter Tea at Starbucks, which explores the conflict between Tibet and China through the lens of a new baby, an interracial marriage and an office rivalry. The $10,000 prize recognizes the best work of short fiction published that year in a Canadian literary magazine.

The 2017 Writers' Trust Awards, hosted by Nick Mount, author of Arrival: The Story of CanLit, were presented at a gala event in Toronto.

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